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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The elusive compromise on the 'settlement freeze'

Herb Keinon reports on what's holding up a compromise between the US and Israel over the 'settlement freeze,' and it appears that the biggest item holding it up is that Israel insists on having an 'exit strategy' if when the diplomatic process runs aground.
Part of the problem, the Post learned, is that Israel cannot agree to a settlement freeze without having "an exit strategy" for renewing construction if the diplomatic process a freeze is meant to promote runs aground.

Another open question is what the country's settlement policy would be after any temporary moratorium ended, since the government has made clear it needs to ensure that "normal life" in the settlements will continue, and that it has no intention of simply "drying out" these communities.

Israel argued that while it was trying to be helpful in getting the diplomatic process restarted - and in fact no new housing tenders in the settlements have been issued since Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister on March 31 - there are basic needs in the settlements that have to be met.


Part of the dilemma in moving forward is how to reach an understanding on the settlements that is sustainable in Israel, and which at the same time would enable President Barack Obama to maintain credibility in the Arab world, given his previous call for a total freeze. While it is also important for Israel - not only the US - for Obama to have credibility with the Arabs, Jerusalem does not want to be the "sucker," the only party giving something concrete to resume negotiations.

Israeli officials have indicated that the government's flexibility on the settlement issue could be greater in the context of the Arab states moving toward normalization gestures toward Israel.
Of course, those Arab 'normalization gestures' have not been forthcoming although US envoy George Mitchell insists that the Arab countries - including Saudi Arabia - have been more forthcoming in private than in public. The fact that the 'Palestinians' have asked the Arab states not to make any concessions might have something to do with that and may be indicative of how (not) seriously the 'Palestinians' are taking Senator Mitchell's mission.

I want to return to the point about the exit strategy because it's an area that's fraught with danger for Israel. First, who determines when the talks have failed and on what basis? What if (as would appear likely) the US and Israel disagree whether the talks have failed? The US may declare the talks a success while Israel may disagree - a highly plausible scenario. What then?

Moreover, even if the talks are succeeding, a freeze that is meant to be temporary ought to have an end point, right? Or is the presumption that if the talks are 'succeeding' Israel will extend the freeze? If so, that presumption has not been made clear in the media here.

And what will happen when (and I believe this is "when" and not "if") the 'Palestinians' come back and say that anything less than a full indefinite freeze is unacceptable to them. Will there be more pressure from the Obama administration on Israel? That appears likely, because the alternative would be to drop the whole thing, and that's about as likely as Obama dropping Obamacare, which is his main domestic plank.

All in all, the entire 'settlement freeze' issue is one that is full of danger for Israel. But the silver lining in the cloud is that it appears that we will be negotiating about a 'settlement freeze' for the next several months (or longer) instead of 'negotiating' a giveaway of most of Israel's strategic assets. Maybe this isn't such a bad result after all.


At 3:17 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I don't see Israel and the US coming to terms on a freeze. The Arabs would have to offer something in exchange and to date they haven't. Until they do, Israeli agreement to one is a purely hypothetical issue. Israel can continue negotiations with the US indefinitely which takes the pressure off for more concessions. In the long run, that's better than giving Obama and the Arabs something for nothing, which would not be in Israel's interest.

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Alpha3958 said...

I think a better question is, why should Israel make any agreement with the US, when the US government does not respect it's previous agreements?

At 6:12 AM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

Yehuda & Shomron are our ancestoral places, no compromise with the islamic squatters


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